High school can be a challenging time for students, who may experience newfound stress as they begin the process of developing serious goals, perhaps for the first time. Setting short-term goals is a good way to relieve the pressures that are all around in high school. They are also a direct path toward reaching your long-term goals. Whether you are working toward going to college, achieving greatness in sports or extracurricular activities or finally getting straight A's, choose attainable and realistic short-term goals that move you forward and keep you motivated.
Put Academics First
While a good long-term goal for a class might be to end the semester with an A, setting a realistic and timely short-term goal helps you make smart decisions that benefit you along the way. For example, rather than demanding perfection from yourself right away, gather together a series of past quizzes or tests, review your grades and set a goal to achieve a higher score on the next three. Track your progress over time, and make your goal attainable within a set time period. Don't set yourself up for disappointment. Marginal improvement can make a difference, so achieving short-term goals that result in small increments of accomplishment matter. If all you do is move from 88 to 90, that's the difference between a B and an A.
Get Homework Done on Time
Managing your time in high school can be challenging because a typical high schooler's life can be busy. Showing up to school each day prepared can end some worry about how class will go, so try to set aside time each night for homework or writing papers. A good short-term goal for homework might be, for two weeks, to have all assignments completed by 9 p.m. the night before they're due. Once you get used to the pattern, make it a long-term goal. If you have study hall, see whether you can get all the homework for one class done then. Divide the homework up into manageable amounts, and, again, track your progress for a set time period to see how you did.
Plan for College
Most high school students are steered toward going to college these days, and the process does involve figuring some things out on your own. For short-term planning, set a goal such as talking to a guidance counselor about your options. Ask about college entrance exams such as the ACT or SAT, financial aid options or career possibilities. If you are further along in high school, plan to visit two or three colleges in a semester. Talk to your parents, friends and their families to see whether you can plan a group trip to a campus. Set a timeline with manageable deadlines, and try to have some fun along the way.
Participate in Extracurricular Activities
The experience of being on the team or in the play involves all participants in learning to achieve reasonable goals of self-improvement. Talk to a coach, director or teacher, and take the advice they offer to decide how you can improve. A short-term goal for sports could be to boost a certain statistic by a few points in a month or come up with a plan to finally beat a rival team. Actors can strive to memorize all their lines by a certain date. Musicians can plan to perform in an ensemble or competition. Once you've achieved that goal, set a new short-term goal to keep your motivation high.
Remember to Network
Part of setting goals is knowing what you need to improve, which means being aware of your weaknesses. A good goal for the short term may be to join an organization that can improve your performance. If you're struggling in French, for example, join the French club and ask for advice. Student organizations abound for tons of different interests in high school, so take advantage of the ability to network. Students who excel in certain subjects may be more than happy to help you with studying. By getting involved in the school's clubs, you may also end up knowing the teachers better, which can help in the long run as well.
Matt Rauscher has been writing professionally since 1996, recently serving as a contributing writer/film critic for "Instinct Magazine." He is also a novelist and co-author of a Chicago city guidebook. In 1997, Rauscher graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in rhetoric.